Every fortnight, we hand over the blog to one of the London Shapers, to give you a flavour of what they do, how they think and what's really going on in our hearts and minds. Today's piece comes from Carlo Minciacchi, who is the founder of Leapian.
In 2015, my life changed when I completed a 10 day Vipassana silent meditation retreat. This is the kind of retreat during which you wake up before the sun rises, practice meditation for the whole day and sometimes well into the night. These were the hardest days of my life and, at the same time, the most important ones. Without going into too much detail, my interests have always been towards understanding things and towards self-development, but it wasn’t until after university that I started experimenting with meditation. During the 4 years of the degree, I lost control over my mind and developed very deep negative thought patterns. This was mainly the combination of several unwanted things happening, and being in a hyper-competitive and intense university. These thought patterns were ruining my life and at times made me quite an unpleasant person to be around. I used to be the kind of person that criticises and judges everything. I used to think that all the problems in my life were caused by things external to me. Because of meditation practice, I very quickly understood that the root cause of all of my problems was a lack of control over my mind and self-awareness. After three years into my practice, I am much happier, calm and balanced. I rarely get angry and if I do, it passes in a matter of minutes. I am also healthier: I have only been ill once in three years, whereas before I’d fall ill every time I took a holiday or a break from work. Meditation is the gym for the mind. In a nutshell, the techniques help you control the mind by raising your awareness and focus, and they're designed to break negative mental patterns, replacing them with positive ones. During the practice, we slow down our thinking, which eradicates agitation, anxiety and leads to several health benefits. With meditation, you develop the ability to identify those same behaviours and patterns in other people, making you able to really understand others and not judge them. By getting rid of negative mental patterns, we start discovering our good qualities. Inner joy starts emerging and we feel like we want to share this with everyone - that we want everyone to be happy. To start meditation there are several things you can do:
As a complete beginner, you can download one of the guided meditation apps and practice a few minutes each day. The benefit is clearer thinking and a reduction in stress.
If you want to dive in a little deeper, there are some books I'd recommend, such as “The Power of Now” by Tolle and “The Mind Illuminated” by Yates. These will help you develop a better understanding of the technique, and provide a model of how the mind works.
Finally, if you feel that meditation is something you wish to explore deeper more, you could try a meditation course. The courses are varied, and can last 3, 7 or even 10 days. They teach different techniques and are typically held at a meditation centre where you will be under the guidance of a teacher. For the most impact, I would join courses that are in silence and in a quiet environment outside of a large city. Some good courses are: The Art of Living, Burgs’ Meditation Retreats, and Vipassana.
If meditation doesn’t resonate with you, there are many other practices that have very similar effects both on the mind and the body. These include any activity that requires deep mental focus such as yoga, martial arts, deep music practice, creative writing - essentially, any activity where you gradually learn how to clear the mind and reach a deeper mental state. The benefits of spending time in these states are immense for our wellbeing and health.